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What is Follicle-Stimulating Hormone or FSH?

What is Follicle-Stimulating Hormone or FSH?

Follicle-Stimulating Hormone or FSH is secreted by the pituitary gland, a pea-sized endocrine gland located at the base of the brain. FSH induces the ovaries to produce eggs and brings about the menstrual cycle in women, causes the production of sperm cells in men, and is associated with the maturation of sexual characteristics in children.

Abnormal levels of FSH can be a sign of menopause, abnormal menstrual bleeding, and problems with conception in women. It can be an indicator of under developed testicles and infertility in men, and can signal early development of sexual features or delayed puberty in children. It can also indicate pituitary gland disorders such as tumors.

Any of the above symptoms can warrant a follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) blood test. It is a simple test where your doctor inserts a needle into a vein in your arm, draws some blood, and sends it to the laboratory for analysis. For women with abnormal menstrual cycles and difficulty becoming pregnant, a blood sample may be drawn every day and the test may be repeated for a fixed number of days.

FSH levels can vary with respect to an individual’s age and gender. The table below shows the normal level of FSH in both men and women of different age groups.

Men Women
Prepubertal – 0 to 5.0 mIU/ml Prepubertal – 0 to 4.0 mIU/ml
During puberty – 0.3 to 10.0 mIU/ml During puberty – 0.3 to 10.0 mIU/ml
Adult – 1.5 – 12.4 mIU/ml Menstruating – 4.7 to 21.5 mIU/ml
  Postmenopausal – 25.8 to 134.8 mIU/ml
mIU/ml = milli international units per milliliter

Abnormal FSH Results

  • High levels of FSH can be present in women
    • On hormone therapy
    • With tumor of the pituitary gland
    • With a rare genetic condition known as Turner syndrome (an abnormality in the X chromosome).
    • During or post menopause or premature menopause
  • Low levels of FSH can be present in women
    • Who have had rapid weight loss or are underweight
    • Not ovulating (producing and releasing eggs)
    • Whose pituitary glands do not produce normal amount of hormones
    • During the period of conception to birth
  • High levels of FSH can be present in men whose testicles do not function normally. This may be due to any of the following factors
    • Ageing
    • Testicle impairment due to substance abuse or cancer treatment
    • Genetic disorders
    • Hormonal therapy
    • Pituitary gland disorders
  • Low levels of FSH in men can occur when the pituitary gland does not produce normal amount of hormones.
  • High levels of FSH in children can be an indicator of the start of puberty.

Talk to your doctor to know more about the results of your specific FSH test.

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